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Making the Dream a Reality (Show): The Celebration of Failure in American Idol

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Abstract:

In American Idol, fame is as readily won through harsh rejection as it is through approbation. As millions tune in each season to watch the dismissal of a tragic-comic parade of anti-stars, it becomes clear that something beyond mere reality-show ridicule is at work here. In failing, those rejected from American Idol succeed in authenticating certain understandings of the American Dream—obligatory ambition, individuality, and the necessity of failure in the process of achievement. This paper examines the negotiation of failure in American Idol, and addresses the question of why, in the end, losers sell just as well as winners.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03007760802217725

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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